Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Thomas Friedman, the Jayne Mansfield of the New York Times

This morning, I'm eating my grapefruit, reviewing my notes for class in my head and trying to get Thomas Friedman off my back.

"Read my column, Betinna!" he's screaming in a voice far too loud for five-thirty in the morning.

Truth be told, I hadn't been reading his column.

His wearing my pantyhose was a godsend. Yes, the elastic was shot to hell, yes, his toe "claws" left runners, and, yes, he looked ridiculous them.

However, it's also true that we all need a good laugh and the joke is always my husband Thomas Friedman. Another benefit from his nylon fetish was the fact that I didn't have to read his drippy columns.

"Thomas Friedman, get out of my pantyhose and I'll read your column," I offered early on.

He didn't and I just let it ride -- enjoying the ride. Which sadly came to an end all too soon. Pin it on his love for the "golden age of Hollywood." One night, he woke me up screaming and slapping my shoulder.

I opened an eye to see what the fuss was while thinking, "I am not running to the store for gummy bears or canned cheese. Fat ass better just make do with the beef jerkey and corn nuts he screamed for all last week."

Meanwhile he's pointing at the TV screen and screaming, "Look! Look!"

Black & white movie. I squint, try to focus and finally make out someone.

"Barbara Stanwyck," I say, rolling over and wondering why he felt the need to wake me for his pop quiz?

"No, Betinna!" he said punching my shoulder. "On her leg."

Rolling over, I glared at him.

"No, you didn't," I said rubbing my shoulder.

"It was just a love tap," snapped Thomas Friedman. "Don't try to play Tina Turner."

"Why?" I asked. "Do you already have that wig too?"

He ignored me and pointed again at the TV screen.

There was Stanwyck with an anklette.

"Isn't that pretty?"

I grunted and went back to sleep.

I knew this was not a case of my husband Thomas Friedman spotting something "pretty" that he planned to give to me as a gift. As always, it was all about Thomas Friedman.

The next day was Tuesday.

He was gone half the day. When he returned, carrying many shopping bags, he'd purchased himself an anklette.

Actually, it was a gold necklace. But he has very thick ankles.

What's more, he had bought his own hose and garters. He didn't care for my pantyhose, he told me. The hose were much "silkier" and helped with his alleged lower back pain.

Whatever. That a grown man can conduct himself thusly while a war wages is truly sad. It's all just faceless victims to him. Not surprising, of course. He read a TV review in the paper about "CSI" and laughed along.

"Oh those stocky middle-aged men," he chuckled. "When will they learn the world belongs to the young studs like me."

Like him?

Regardless, his decision to purchase hose meant that he was out of my pantyhose.

So this morning at breakfast, he informed me, I had no excuse to avoid reading his latest -- "A Well of Smiths and Xias."

Possibly the most racist thing he's created yet. I say "created" because we do not have a daughter named "Natalie" or, for that matter, any daughter at all. Nor had he attended any high school graduation. However, they did rerun the episode of "Saved By The Bell" Monday where everyone graduates and sings that dopey song about "Our moments here have all become unraveled, and so our high school story finally ends, we'll go on with our lives once we have parted, but how can we say farewell to our friends." Thomas Friedman was blubbering by the time they repeated the last line, "But how can we say farewell to our friends."

So it shouldn't be a surprise that he ended up creating a high school graduation for a column this week. Listing various surnames of hypothetical graduates, Thomas Friedman wrote: "I went to a high school graduation Monday and a United Nations meeting broke out."

Written like the middle-aged, fat, White man he is. I acted like I continued reading but mainly just glanced at it. His racist remark was in keeping with him in so many ways. For instance, if we had a daughter, which we don't, it would be just like Thomas Friedman to never know any of her classmates' names until he breezed in for a high school graduation. That is just the type of father Thomas Friedman would be. Of course, if we had a daughter, she would be bi-racial -- a detail Thomas Friedman left out of his little invention this morning.

Finishing my grapefruit, I made to leave. I've been leaving before six each morning, claiming it took that long to get to The New School but mainly just wanting to get away from him as soon as possible.

On the way through the living room, I happened to look at him sitting smartly on the sofa. He was wearing his white hose with red garters, his shorty robe, a pair of flip flops and what had to be, I swear, the Judy Miller wig bleached blonde.

"Well aren't you all dolled up," I remarked still a little stunned.

"I'm going to be on TV," he giggled. "Sh. Don't tell anyone."

"Holy mother of God," I thought, "if he goes on TV like this, Bill Keller and Gail Collins will fire his fat ass."

"Thomas Friedman, you are not leaving the apartment like that!"

"Jealous?" Thomas Friedman asked, dangling his leg to draw attention to his anklette.

Seeing my college dreams go up in smoke, us out on the street homeless and standing in the unemployment line with a Thomas Friedman dolled up like Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane", I jumped on him and wresteled him to the floor.

There was a knocking at the door.

"Mr. Friedman," the voice said. "It's your driver. Ready to go?"

"He's not going with you!" I yelled through the closed door as I covered his mouth. "He's arranged other transportation. No tip! Go away!"

I could hear the driver walking away from the door and feel Thomas Friedman biting into my hand.

Looking at my hand, my first thought was that I was bleeding. Then I realized that it was just Thomas Friedman's heavy lipstick.

"Ha!" I told him. "Now you won't be on TV!"

Angry, Thomas Friedman rose to his feet, fixed his wig and checked the seams of his hose before glaring at me.

"But ch AAH, Blance, ya AAH in that chair," he hissed.

It took me a minute to realize he was quoting Bette Davis.

"Whatever," I said leaving the room to wash his heavy lipstick off my hand.

When I came back in he was on the phone.

"I would still love to talk to Amy," he said into the phone before covering it and whispering to me, "Amy Goodman."

Amy Goodman?

Yes, Thomas Friedman was still smarting over Arundhati Roy's critique of him.

He'd whined to his former mentor Robert Fisk, begged and pleaded, until finally, probably just to get rid of him, Fisk had phoned Amy Goodman to see if she'd do him a favor and book Thomas Friedman for her show? She probably heard the weary desperation in his voice and agreed.

I waited, wishing I could turn away, but unable to. Filled with that feeling of "It's going to happen!" that you get when you see someone about to trip and fall.

Thomas Friedman winked at me and twirled a finger through a ringlet of his wig.

I have no idea how it went on Amy Goodman's end. I'm honestly afraid to watch the show. I know how it went from his end of the phone call. He gave two minute replies that never appeared to possess a coherent thought though they were all heavy with corn pone phrases and plugs for his book. At one point, the exchange must have gotten testy.

Either Amy Goodman confronted him with some of his past remarks or else she brought up his weight because his whole face turned red. Redder than the lipstick he'd smeared across his lips. He huffed that he couldn't be expected to remember something he'd said in the 1980s because he'd said "Hundreds of thousands of words since then."

I hope Goodman responded, "Yeah, just in your replies on this show alone!"

At one point, he started talking about how I am against Bully Boy's illegal war.

I hissed, "Don't you dare mention my name!"

He rolled his eyes but didn't mention my name. Thankfully. Like I need to become a joke at my new school -- ironically called "The New School."

By the end of the interview, he wasn't crying. Just spitting mad.

I left to head for campus. Checking my e-mail at the library, I see he's already sent out a "press release" (apparently my being married to him puts me on his list of recipients)

In his press release, he writes: "As I argued before, we must invade independent media to educate them. I feel that I did that today. I will go anywhere, to any location, regardless of whether or not they have a Starbucks -- but they better have a Dunkin Doughnuts -- to get my message out. I think that the lively exchange I and Amy Goodman had will help her, help independent media and help the world which, as you know, is flat. I am glad to do my part in this global battle."

Moment later, my cell phone rang. It was Thomas Friedman.

"Betinna," he began, "I'm worried about how I may have come off on 'Democracy Now!' today."

"You came off very blonde," I replied. "In fact, like a natural blonde."

"Thank you, dear. You always say just the right thing. Hey, on the way home this afternoon, I need more jerkey and probably two cans of NAIR. Thanks."

With that he was gone. The blonde starlet had listed demands and had nothing else to say. Thomas Friedman, the Jayne Mansfield of the "Times."